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Motion for New Trial in Criminal Cases


What is the purpose of a new trial?

It is to temper the severity of a judgment or prevent the failure of justice. (Jose vs Court of Appeals, 70 SCRA 257, 1976)


When should a motion for new trial in a criminal case be filed?

The motion for new trial may be filed at any time before a judgment of conviction becomes final, that is, within 15 days from its promulgation or notice. (Sec 1, Rule 121) Upon finality of judgment, therefore, a motion for new trial is no longer available remedy. 


Who may move for a new trial?
  1. The accused or 
  2. The court at its own instance but with the consent of the accused. (Sec 1, Rule 121)

What are the grounds for a new trial?

The court shall grant a new trial on any of the following grounds:

1.  Errors of law or irregularities - That errors of law or irregularities prejudicial to the substantial rights of the accused have been committed during the trial

Errors of law 

Example: In one case, during the trial, the trial court excluded a defense witness from testifying based on an erroneous interpretation of the rules of evidence. The judge disqualified him. But it turned out that the witness was not disqualified. That is an error of law. For all you know, if his testimony will be given, the accused will be acquitted. Therefore, a new trial should be granted where he should be allowed to testify. (People vs. Estefa, 86 Phil.  104)

Irregularities 

Example: In one case, the trial court compelled the accused, over his objection, to submit to trial without the assistance of his counsel. (People vs. Enriquez, L-4934, November 28, 1951) If the accused is convicted because of such irregularity, this is a valid ground for new trial. Besides, why should the judge punish the accused? He should punish the lawyer.


2. Newly discovered evidence That new and material evidence has been discovered which the accused could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced at the trial and which if introduced and admitted would probably change the judgment.


What are the requisites for granting a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence?
  1. The evidence must have been discovered after trial;
  2. Such evidence could not have been discovered and produced at the trial even with the exercise of reasonable diligence;
  3. The evidence is material, not merely cumulative, corroborative, or impeaching;
  4. The evidence must go to the merits, such that it would produce a different result if admitted. (Jose vs. CA, 70 SCRA 257).

Are the mistakes of counsel in conducting the case valid grounds for a motion for a new trial?

No. Mistakes or errors of counsel in the conduct of his case are not grounds for new trial. This rule is the same whether the mistakes are the result of ignorance, inexperience, or incompetence. (U.S. vs. Umali, 15 Phil. 37)

If the incompetence, ignorance or inexperience of counsel is so great and the error committed as a result thereof is so serious that the client, who otherwise has a good cause, is prejudiced and denied his day in court, the litigation may be reopened to give the client another chance to present his case.


What is a recantation?  Is it a ground for a new trial? When can a recantation be a ground for new trial

It is when a prior statement is withdrawn formally and publicly by a witness.

It is not a ground for granting a new trial because it makes a mockery of the court and would place the investigation of truth at the mercy of unscrupulous witnesses.  Moreover, retractions are easy to extort out of witnesses.  In contrast, their previous statements are made under oath, in the presence of the judge, and with the opportunity to cross-examine.  Therefore, the original testimony should be given more credence.

However, the exception to this rule is when aside from the testimony of the retracting witness, there is not other evidence to support the conviction of the accused.  In this case, the retraction by the sole witness creates a doubt in the mind of the judge as to the guilt of the accused.  A new trial may be granted.

But if there is other evidence independent of the retracted testimony, there can be no new trial.


Distinguish between a recantation and an affidavit or desistance.

In a recantation, a witness who previously gave a testimony subsequently declares that his statements were not true.

In an affidavit of desistance, the complainant states that he did not really intend to institute the case and that he is no longer interested in testifying or prosecuting.  It is a ground for dismissing the case only if the prosecution can no longer prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt without the testimony of the offended party.


Can the accused move for a new trial if he has found evidence that would impeach the testimony given by a prosecution witness?

No. Evidence which merely seeks to impeach the evidence upon which the conviction was based will not constitute grounds for new trial.  It has to be material evidence.


When is evidence considered to be material?

It is material if there is reasonable likelihood that the testimony or evidence could have produced a different result (the accused would have been acquitted).


What is the form required for a motion for new trial?

The motion for reconsideration should:
  1. be in writing;
  2. state the grounds on which it is based;
  3. if based on newly discovered evidence, it must be supported  by affidavits of witnesses by whom such evidence is expected to be given or authenticated copies of documents to be introduced in evidence. (Sec. 4, Rule 121)

Who should be notified?

Notice of the motion for reconsideration should be given to the prosecutor. (Sec. 4, Rule 121)


What is the effect of the grant of the motion for new trial?

1.  If it is based on errors of law or irregularities committed during the trial, all the proceedings and evidence affected by the error or irregularity will be set aside. The court may, in the interest of justice, allow the introduction of additional evidence.  This is called trial de novo.

2. If it is based on newly discovered evidence, the evidence already adduced will stand.  The newly discovered evidence and whatever other evidence the court will allow to be introduced shall be taken and considered together with the evidence already on record.

3. In all cases – whether the court grants new trial or reconsideration – the original judgment shall be set aside or vacated and a new judgment rendered. (Sec. 6, Rule 121)


Is there an instance when a motion for new trial is prohibited?

Yes.

1. When the case is tried in the MTC under the Summary Rules. Under Section 19(c) of the Revised Rules on Summary Procedure, a motion for new trial is prohibited.

2. In small claims cases. Under Sec. 14 of the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases, a motion for new trial is prohibited. 


Why is the accused not subjected to double jeopardy when a new trial or reconsideration is granted?

First, because it is only granted upon motion of the accused. Also, the first jeopardy is never terminated, since the original judgment is set aside and replaced with a new one.


If you file a motion for new trial and it is denied, how many days do you have to file an appeal? Does the fresh period rule apply in criminal cases?

It is now settled that the fresh period rule is applicable in criminal cases. Where the accused files from a judgment of conviction a motion for new trial or reconsideration which is denied by the trial court, the accused will have a fresh 15-day period counted from receipt of such denial within which to file his or her notice of appeal. (Olayres vs. People, G.R. No. 192799, October 24, 2012)


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